On Friday, in response to a judge’s order, the Department of Justice released data showing the authors, recipients, timing, and subject lines of a group of emails sent to and from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. They show that in the weeks before the commission issued a controversial letter requesting sweeping voter data from the states, co-chair Kris Kobach and the commission’s staff sought the input of Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams on “present and future” state data collection, and attached a draft of the letter for their review — at a moment when neither had yet been named to the commission. The commission’s letter requesting that data has been by far its most significant action since its formation in May — and was widely considered a fiasco. It sparked bipartisan criticism and multiple lawsuits. Yesterday, a federal court blocked the state of Texas from handing over its data due to privacy concerns.
The involvement by Adams and von Spakovsky, both Republicans, in drafting the letter even before they were nominated to the commission shows their influence. Von Spakovsky previously raised eyebrows after documents from February showed him lobbying against the inclusion of Democrats on the commission.
The sway of Adams and von Spakovsky starkly contrasts with that of other members, who say they have largely been sidelined. A Democratic commissioner, Matt Dunlap, the secretary of state of Maine, expressed frustration with what he said was a “clear” imbalance of power. “Von Spakovsky has a profound influence on this commission,” he said. “I never expected to be at the head of the table, but I’m not even sure I’m sitting at the table.” Dunlap questioned “who the chair of the commission really is. Is it the vice president of the United States, [Mike Pence is the titular co-chair of the commission], or is it Hans von Spakovsky, working in the shadows?”